Ducati still won't lick Rossi
And mamma mia, it went to Ducati! After a downbeat second MotoGP year with a powerful but clumsy Mk2 Desmosedici, Mk3 came out of the box, on the rev limiter and showing everybody the way. Capirossi set a blistering pace, leaving even Rossi's Yamaha trailing. As did a couple of Hondas. The significance of this can easily be over-estimated. For one thing, while the Ducatis and Rossi's Yamaha were proper '05 models, the Hondas were merely '04 bikes 'with some parts'. So Honda have not yet shown their hand. And Rossi? He and crew chief Jerry Burgess do not lack brains. I remember Burgess complaining way back in the Doohan days, when Dorna started mass pre-season tests. "Why show everybody what you can do unless you're racing?" he asked. The logic hasn't changed.
Ducati will start the Desmosedici's third GP year a great deal stronger but I have my doubts that they pose a credible threat to Rossi. They just don't have the riders. Capirossi's no slouch; new team-mate Carlos Checa is due a revival in his fortunes. But they have to race against a giant.
The record says it all. At the last round of 2004, Capirossi racked up 216 starts in all classes, with 23 wins - a rate of 10.65%. In 500cc/MotoGP, the rate drops to 2.86% (105 starts, three wins). Checa has 168 starts and two wins, making his average 1.43%. Rossi's all-classes win rate is 48.57%, and in 500cc/MotoGP an even more impressive 52.5% with 42 wins from 80 starts. Biaggi, by contrast, has a top-class win rate of 11.8%; Gibernau just over 7%, previous World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr. 6.2 percent. It's hard to think that Ducati's pair of veterans will suddenly come up with any big surprises. I'll be looking more to Tokyo than Bologna for anything that's going to give the defending champion sleepless nights.
MotoGP enters a new age
How old is too old to be a World Champion? Oldest Inhabitant Jeremy McWilliams, 40, has just been dropped from MotoGP, marketing considerations dictating a younger replacement on the KR-KTM. Some might count Checa (32), Barros (34) and even Capirossi (31) as old lags in a top class biased towards older riders. In fact, the bigger class has through history generally favoured older riders. Rossi bucks the trend, four times a major class champion at 26. This year's entries are not finalised, but last year's had some surprises. MotoGP's average age was only 25.8. Remove McWilliams and it drops to 25.2. The old-timer barrier is not as strong as it looks.
Testing times for Bridgestone
Bridgestone have pulled a flanker on Michelin over the winter, leaving the Frenchmen in a huff. The ever more challenging Japanese company signed (along with Dunlop) a proposal, mainly devised by Michelin, aimed at cutting costs. The teams rejected it late last season, but the matter remained open for discussion with racing management. But Bridgestone's commitment was just lip service... because at the same time they were preparing to exploit a loophole banning teams from testing at GP circuits until after the race. But they say nothing about test teams. Lo and behold, Bridgestone customers Ducati and Suzuki have confirmed they will run independent test teams this year. The riders? None other than Bridgestone development teamsters Shinichi Itoh (Ducati) and Nobu Aoki (Suzuki).In this way Bridgestone can develop tyres for tracks before each race. Expensive option, and makes a nonsense of cost-cutting plans - but potentially devastating.
Michelin have now dropped out of their own proposal, saying that since everyone will now have to have test teams, there's no point saving pennies elsewhere.
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